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What Does the Gostak Do?

Illustration for article titled What Does the Gostak Do?

The Gostak distims the doshes. This is a sentence that has no meaning in the real world - except the one that is has built up over its extensive history. Learn about the gostak, the doshes, and their surprising science fiction connection.


The first great nonsense poem is probably Jabberwocky. Lewis Carroll published it in 1871, in the novel, Through the Looking-Glass, but it stands alone as a piece of art. The poem, with sentences like, "all mimsy were the borogroves and the mome raths outgrabe," was full of meaningless words, but the sound of those words - and a few understandable words mixed in - helped convey the meaning of an epic adventure.

The Gostak distims the doshes, has, over time, become a formalized version of what poems like Jabberwocky are doing. The sentence was first written editor and progressive educator Simon Ingraham, who believed that one of the "uses of language" was to "keep the grammarians busy." The point is that, while the sentence has no meaning in the real world, it has a perfect, understandable, and self-contained meaning inside that sentence. The doshes are things that are distimmed by the Gostak. Distimming is what Gostaks do to doshes. And, well, the Gostak distims the doshes. We know what it means. All we need is more context to understand what is actually happening. We feel that, if we could keep reading for a few more paragraphs, we could pick up what each of these things actually are - the way we pick up almost all language.


This elusive lack of context has led to a lot of people playing with the sentence in different contexts. The Gostak shows up in a lot of areas. One of the most notable was "The Gostak and the Doshes," a science fiction story by Miles Breuer. In the story, "The Gostak distims the doshes," was a political slogan that made people furious. A visitor tries in vain to get people to explain what it is that's so bad about this idea, but can't even find out what any of the words mean. People didn't know what was being said, but they still couldn't bear the idea that that Gostak was out there. Distimming.

[Via The Gostak Distims the Doshes, The Gostak and the Doshes.]

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Them Gostaks distiming our Doshes!

How dare they? There are tons of perfectly capable americans who would distim the Doshes if they were allowed too!

I say, death to the Gostaks! Let them return to wherever they came from and distim there.